Pope Francis has appointed Nelson Perez as the new archbishop of Philadelphia, with Perez becoming the first Latino to head a major US archdiocese.
Perez, who is currently the bishop of Cleveland, replaces Charles Chaput, a conservative who was at odds with Francis’s more liberal positions on leading issues, including homosexuality and abortion.
Chaput offered his resignation in September – church law dictates that bishops must do so when they turn 75 – but a pope can choose to decline the offer. In this case, the ultra-traditionalist Chaput has been allowed to leave, with Perez assuming the role.
In a statement on Twitter, Perez said he was “deeply grateful” to Pope Francis for the appointment.
“It is with great joy tinged with a sense of sadness that I accept the appointment,” Perez said.
Perez, who speaks English and Spanish, was born in Miami and raised in West New York. He previously served as the parochial vicar of St Ambrose parish in Philadelphia, and was assistant director of the Office for Hispanic Catholics.
He is also the chair of the bishops’ committee on cultural diversity, and the former chair of the bishops’ sub-committee for Hispanic affairs.
Francis and Chaput were perceived to be as foes as the pope has sought to liberalize – relatively – the Catholic church.
Chaput, who was previously served as the archbishop of Denver, was the first person of Native American background to be appointed an archbishop in the US. He has been an opponent of LGBTQ rights – in a 2011 interview he said “a relationship between two people of the same sex is not in line with the teachings of the church and the teachings of the gospel, and is therefore wrong”.
Francis is seen as more liberal than his predecessor, Benedict, but has sent out mixed messages on social issues. Both oppose same-sex marriage, although in 2013, months after becoming pope, Francis said: “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?”